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Monday, June 28, 2010

~Creamy Sweet & Tangy Sharp~ Most delicious contradiction ever

One thing (or maybe a few things) I miss about living in the Bay Area is all the great food I knew exactly where to find.  One of the rights of passage about living in an urban area is finally learning all the great places to eat and being able to call them to mind without a yellow book.  One in particular is O Chame on bustling 4th street in west Berkeley.  I try to go every time I'm in the area for all the wonderful dishes!  One that I will never forget nor have I ever seen elsewhere is a Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream!  I've been trying to figure out the recipe ever since I knew how to make creme anglaise... Food copy skills don't fail me now:

 ~Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar Gelato~

1 1/2 C Superfine Sugar                                               
4 1/2 Tablespoons Aged Balsamic Vinegar                

6 Large Egg Yolks                                
1 3/4 C Whole Milk                                
1 C Heavy Whipping Cream 

SPECIAL TOOLS: Large Metal Bowl
                              Deep Sauce Pot x2
                              Fine Mesh Strainer
                              Ice Cream Maker 

Yield - Roughly 1 Quart

This is pretty basic recipe but it's made using a much different method.  The usual sugar in the finalized creme anglaise isn't added with the eggs, but is made into a caramel and added last before the final straining.  A roundabout method some would say, but the end result is very much worth the effort!

Start by making the custard base. 

Place a pot of water on medium low heat to simmer for a double boiler. The wider the better here because when you go to cook over it, especially when cooking fragile things like eggy custards, you'll want to distribute the heat over a wider area and thus reduce the risk of burning/over cooking.

Heat cream and milk in a medium sauce pot until you get a light scald then remove from heat. Whisk eggs and 1 Tablespoon (to help in the custard forming) of your sugar in a large metal bowl. Temper hot cream mixture SLOWLY into eggs just a small bit at a time for the first half, stirring all the while to bring the temperature of the two liquids closer together and prevent burning. Add the rest slowly, whisking to combine thoroughly as you go.

Place the egg and cream/milk mixture over your double boiler pot and cook about 10 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides constantly with a rubber spatula, until it begins to thicken. The mixture should cling somewhat to the spatula and will hold a line made with your finger.  Depending on the thickness and shape of the pot and the bowl this may take some time but don't be tempted to crank up the heat as too much heat can boil the mixture and curdle the egg in the liquid (sweet scrambled eggs.) Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of overcooked egg or cream then place in a vessel and into the fridge

Next Make your balsamic Caramel:

To make the caramel, place your sugar in a deep sauce pot over medium high heat to melt and cook. You can add a TINY amount of water to help it along but in this case, less is more. Keep a pastry brush and glass of water handy to brush down the sides to prevent crystals forming.  Try not to stir but you can swirl the pot gently to aid in even melting.  Try not to do this if you don't absolutely have to.

Heat the sugar until it melts and just begins to go golden. Working quickly, douse the bottom of the pot in cold water and pour in your vinegar.  You can add less vinegar or more vinegar   Swirl to mix and slowly pour into your cream base, stirring all the while to prevent overheating.

Stir quickly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides every so often until the mixture is uniform in color and all of the caramel has disolved, then strain one last time.  Any large chunks will dissolve slowly but keep at it.  All of the flavor is in the caramel so don't toss any of it out for timeliness' sake.  Just as with the Vanilla Gelato, place into the fridge over night to chill and Hydrate.  Be sure to cover the custard with plastic wrap in contact with the custard surface as just like any custard, air can cause it to skin over...  also no fun.  This base can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

FOOD SCIENCE NOTES: Ice Crystallization in Ice Cream

Prepare your choice of ice cream machines and remove your custard from the fridge.  Pour in the custard and churn on low speed until you get a thick soft serve consistency, about 12 minutes. Chill in the freezer for 4-6 hours.

This dessert is one that can be paired with many, many different flavors both sweet and savory or simply served by itself.  One way I personally have presented it that got positive feed back was with fresh strawberries and a small bit of fresh, strong, Parmesan cheese!  Maybe serve with a chilled strawberry basil soup or just berries and a basil leaf.  So many possibilities and so much time to try them all!  One way of plating is with a garnish of bubble sugar.

Notes on Presentation:  Bubble Sugar Garnish


Thursday, June 24, 2010

~Fiery Summer Colors~ Plum spicy variations on classic summer fare

 So I'm back in my canning shoes with help from the proverbial shoehorns of cheap Kerr supplies and an abundance of ripening summer fruit at the farmers market.  This time of year the market really gets going and we begin to run into all kinds of interesting hybrid produce.  One such fruit I've never come across before is the somewhat obscure Aprium: a more labor-intensive cultivar, hybrid cousin to the Pluot and the Plumcot.
My last batch of unusual Marmalade was a hit with visiting family so I got all set to make more but I had no grapefruit, as the recipe would suggest.  I did however have the rough volume of a large grapefruit in organic, reddish, ripening apriclom... plapricot... Apriums!  OK, Got it!  Lets go!

~Spicy Aprium Orange Marmalade~

6 Large Oranges (the heavier the orange = juicier)
5 Apriums (Pluots or Red Plums work too)
1 Small Habanero Pepper
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
1 Tablespoon Grand Mariner
3 Teaspoons Calcium Water
3 C Water
2-3 C Sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
4 Teaspoons Pomona's Universal Pectin

                              Canning Utensil Kit including:
                                 Jar Lifter Tongs
                                 Head Room Measuring Stick
                                 Lid Magnet Wand
                                 Canning Funnel
                                 XL Pot for boiling

Yield - 7 8oz Jars

When I got started on this recipe and I had all my mise en place in order I noticed some leftover habanero peppers (from a spicy guacamole... future post perhaps) sitting in a bowl on the side of the counter.  I've always loved sweet fruit dishes with some background spice so I though it would work as well with jams and jellies as it does with spicy candy fillings and juices!  So it does as it turns out, but be aware that a little goes a LONG way when it comes to Habaneros.

This recipe, like the last Marmalade post, is produced with a calcium-catalyzed, low-ester pectin (in this case Pomona's) but you should be fine following the recipe included with most pectin powders.   

Wash your Apriums or Plums thoroughly and remove the stones and stem segments, then rough chop. De-seed and cut the hot pepper into small pieces. Put peppers, apriums, lime juice and grand marnier in the blender and blend on high speed for 4 minutes.

Speaking of peppers here rather than there...  or more about what the "hot" really is...


Just some notes on spicy, spicy peppers and including them in recipes!  What exactly happens when we eat any number of spicy peppers from the mild bell pepper all the way up to the near gamma radiation level spice of the south asian Ghost Pepper (a Scoville rating of nearly 1 million) is the defining chemical Capsaicin acting to irritate the mucus membranes of our mouthes.  This chemical, a hydrophobic long chain hydrocarbon, will by definition repel water and most water containing compounds and mixtures.  Just as with a grease fire, the common gut reaction to throw water on it will end badly, the water simply dispersing the capsaicin in tiny particle form and causing the burning to spread acordingly.  Often the only cure is a glass of milk, the casein (a phosphoprotein) in milk solids  with a detergent effect.

Capsaicin Molecular Geometry

Capsaicin is not water soluble bit it is Alcohol soluble. In this case we've added a tiny bit of grand marnier to the plum puree in order to disperse and distribute the capsaicin from the peppers. The alcohol acts to help the chemical spiciness penetrate the jam base, creating a more even, mild heat throughout, in balance with the other flavors. Like-dissolves-like strikes again! Spicy Fiery Science!


Remove the zest from 3 oranges and set aside. Slice one orange thin then quarter the slices.  Supreme remaining oranges, chop the segments and place them along with water, calcium water, zest, orange slices and fruit puree in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 22 minutes, stirring sparingly then remove from heat.  Whisk together sugar and pectin powder in a separate bowl then stir vigorously into cooked fruit. Bring to a boil once more then remove from heat.


Drain your Jars and tins and get them ready to fill.  Its best to work on a fresh clean towel to pick up any excess water and maintain a clean environment all the while.  A towel also keeps the hot glass jars from sliding around and potentially off the counter.
Fill your jars up to 1/4" head space, wipe the rims, and press the lids down snug. Screw on rings finger tight and place in boiling pot to boil 12 minutes. Remove from the pot, tighten the rings, and cool on a wire rack.  You may need to add some more time to the boiling time to build up the right amount of pressure.  Correct  +1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level


If any don't, use immediately or toss out as it can turn bad quickly. These will keep for months unopened and for up to 3 weeks in the fridge after opening.

Since jams, jellies and marmalades have so many variables, like how much water is added, sugar levels, pectin levels, how much fruit to zest or to acid, they can be experimented with and altered to no end!  Sometimes though, the experimentation comes in making use of the end product.  I'm thinking of spicing this recipe up and making a chocolate cake filling...  But don't let me put your ideas in a box!  Go try whatever you can think of, even if you think it might not work.  Just have fun in the mean time!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


So I've been working hard to really spruce the place up around here these last few months and I think its really beginning to come together!  Most recently I've added rss feeds to Facebook and Twitter so those who feel more inclined to those can Follow, Tweet, or Like to their hearts content.  I've also just compiled, figured out, coded, re-figured, re-coded and finalized a food science archive page with in page target linking!  *whew*     

More to come soon I'm sure!  Thanks for reading, don't be strangers and happy kitchening!

Monday, June 21, 2010

~French² Toast~ Leftovers meet their Upcycling match!

Even if you're an old hand at home bread making, sometimes you're just tired and you give in to the store's fancy bread section.  But in that fallback, there is always the price and the problem of leftovers, forgotten, slowly developing opposable thumbs in the back of the fridge.  But when it comes to throwing out food, especially these days, I can't give in without a fight.  Where there's a will, and a quick spice drawer shuffle, there will be...

~Orange Cardamom French² Toast~

Leftover Quality French Bread, sliced thick
6 Eggs
1 - 1.5 C Whole Milk
Decorticated or Ground Cardamom
Ground Cinnamon

SPECIAL TOOLS: Cast iron skillet
                               Pie Dish
                               Pastry Brush 

Simple, short post this time... Nothing wrong with that though.  After I've tried this the first time, I can honestly say I like it more than french toast made with the traditional egg bread.  It has a fluffier consistency and doesn't tend to get soggy quickly.  The bubbly interior of the french bread holds on to the egg in such a way that it cooks through and gets crispier faster.

Start with a consideration for the simple syrup.  Most syrup recipes wont have this noted but in my experience, the flavors need an overnight chill in the fridge to become fully fleshed out and intense.  This stuff will keep for a long time in the fridge so its easy to make in about 10 minutes during the week for use on a Sunday morning.  If you've got syrup pre-made, you can just add grand mariner to taste.  Now lets get to the toasting!

Slice your french bread about the thickness of thick egg bread (3/4" -1") and set aside in a bag.  If it's a bit old and getting hardened, slice off the dry end and put the rest in the oven on warm for about 5 minutes.  Lightly whisk eggs and cinnamon in a shallow pie dish then add milk and whisk thoroughly.  If you're going to use ground cardamom instead of Decorticated seeds, add it here with the cinnamon.

Heat butter and decorticated cardamom in your cast iron skillet over medium heat until the spice becomes fragrant.  You won't really need to worry about getting grit as the seeds cook and soften, but if you want to avoid cardamom bits in the final cooked toast, just scrape the seeds off to one side before you add the battered bread.


Lightly brush your bread with a small amount of orange simple syrup, batter them in the egg mixture and place in the frying pan.  Fry about 3 minutes per side, flipping only once to avoid smashing.  The french bread will end up being more fragile than regular bread once battered so gentle is the way to go.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with warm maple butter syrup.  

Experiment with different kinds of flavorings in the simple syrup and spices added to the egg to get a combo you like.  You could even forgo the cinnamon in the egg and make a strong cinnamon simple syrup.  Try brushing the toast with a berry juice before battering with a brown sugar/egg/milk mixture.  So many options to be tried...  Have fun with it!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

~Like 60,000 Peas In A Pod~ A frosty homage to REAL vanilla

Well... beans I guess would be the correct word. As much nostalgia as the smell of common household vanilla extract in cookies and cakes has for me, there really is no true substitute for vanilla beans when you're making anything that is solely vanilla flavored.  A strong, sweet spice derived from the fruiting bodies of certain Mexico native orchids, vanilla is second only to Saffron on the expense scale.  In a side-by-side smell test, especially in soft and frozen custards, there can be no mistake in both the intensity and complexity of real vanilla beans over more common, alcohol diluted extracts.  Despite lack of interest in "vanilla," the maybe-not-so-humble bean deserves a little more credit:

~Vanilla Bean Gelato~ 

5 Eggs at room temp, lightly beaten
1/2 C Vanilla Sugar
2 1/2 C Whole Milk
1 C Heavy Cream
1 Whole Vanilla Bean, split and seeded
Pinch of Salt
Tiny Pinch fresh Orange Zest (optional)

SPECIAL TOOLS - Ice Cream Machine
                                Large Metal Bowl
                                2x Medium Sauce Pots

It's icy cold delicious on a hot day!  Most if not all of us will scream for it!  And in this case it may even be in a certain Mediterranean language:  Gelato.  This Italian variant of frozen custard treats gets its dense, creamy texture and intense flavors from a lighter cream base, lower sugar ratios, and a quick, small batch deep freeze resulting in less overage (air incorporated in churning.)  Whatever you want to call it, the difference is one you will likely remember and come back for more!  No time like the present I suppose so lets get started:

Make sure that you will have plenty of room in your refrigerator for the large metal bowl or some other vessel to hold the cooked custard while it hydrates.  This is an important step so be sure you will have room while not overloading your fridge and raising the internal temp.

In a medium, fairly deep sauce pot (deeper and narrow is a better bet than shallow for this) combine milk, cream, salt, vanilla seeds, and vanilla pod and bring to a scald.  This "pasteurization" stage is more about cooking the milk fat (and later the egg mixture), to assist in binding the water and preventing large ice crystals forming when freezing, but we'll get back to that later...  

Let steep covered for 20 minutes to allow as much of the vanillin to seep out of the pod, then bring back to a scald. Pour your hot cream through a fine strainer to remove the large pod skin and any milk skin that may have formed as the cream steeped. 


In a large metal bowl combine eggs and sugar thoroughly with a whisk.  You'll want a bowl with a fairly smooth shape to facilitate scraping while you cook.  Pour cream into eggs very slowly to avoid overcooking and "scrambled" egg chunks.  You still might end up with some but it'll get strained out in the end.  
Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (low heat) and cook 8-10 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides continuously with a rubber spatula.  You'll want to see a very light custardy consistency that clings to the spatula and leaves a line when you run your finger through it.  Strain once more and pour into a clean vessel that will fit easily into the fridge close to the back.  Cover with plastic in contact with the surface to prevent skinning, and toss in the fridge to chill and hydrate the fat overnight at least 6 hours.   

Remember that "later" earlier?  well...


HA!  OK I'll calm down...
When we make ice cream, more importantly when we freeze and churn the custard, the last thing we want is a "slushy" almost crunchy consistency.  About as far from creamy as you can get so obviously no fun...  Sorbet maybe but not really "cream."  

Electron Microscope Scan of Ice Crystals

When we let an ice cream custard base chill overnight in the fridge, it comes down in temp to facilitate even, slow heat exchange when we toss it in the machine, but maybe more importantly to allow the fat globules to hydrate properly.  Similar to whipped cream, the action of the fat globules wanting to cling and bind the water into a semi stable network of tiny particles, inhibits the formation of complex, large ice crystals when we churn later.  There it is - bound water networking in high fat liquids yielding smaller ice crystallization and a creamier frozen treat for a hot summer evening!


From here, pour into your machine and churn according to the instructions at the lowest speed setting 12-20 minutes until you have the consistency of thick soft serve. Place in a freezer-safe container to set a few hours before serving.  Serve with fruit, chocolate, cakes, pies.  I like to toss my ice cream bowls in the freezer for about 20 minutes prior so they don't melt the ice cream.

Just like any basic ice cream base recipe, this can be flavored with almost anything you can think of, so go nuts!  Nutella, cocoa, coffee, whole berries, fruit puree, zest, whole and ground spices or flower extracts.  Just keep in mind the fat content so you don't change the overall fat levels too much.  


Thursday, June 10, 2010

~Buddhahandfull of Blueberry Goodness~ Close-to-home remedy for an exotic sweet tooth

For far out flavors in an equally far out package it's hard to beat the not-quite-so-humble Citron, often found as the Fingered Citron or Buddha Hand.  The unusual shape and strong floral/gingery lemon flavor make this little power packed fruit a great addition to any recipe calling for citrus zest, from cakes and pastry to sausage and meat marinades.  Alas with this unusual, exotic flavor, comes a high ranking in the "hard to find" category.  They can be ordered at often great expense online but to find them in large chain stores is very unlikely.  But have no fear for this is a spice, like many others, with a simple kitchen shorthand...

~Blueberry Citron Buttermilk Scones~
Printable Recipe 

2 C Cake Flour
1 C AP Flour
1/3 C Bakers Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
7 Tablespoons Cold Butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 to 3/4 C Fresh Blueberries
2/3 C Bulgarian (yogurt based) Buttermilk
1 Large Egg + 1 Yolk

1 Teaspoon Citron Zest
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Zest + 1 Pinch Cardamom

SPECIAL TOOLS:  Parchment Paper Lined Baking Sheet
                               AA Large Grain Sugar for topping

Yield - 8 Scones

If I remember correctly, as I was making lemon zest cream cheese filling for danish the scents of the zest and the cardamom spice in the dough started to mingle as they do and so was born my shortcut.  A small amount of cardamom, with its complex floral aroma, can add that little bit of flare necessary to make the difference between lemon zest and citron zest negligible.  The same can be done with any citrus zest or juice so go out and experiment!  Now lets get down to the recipe:
Start by preheating your oven to 425f.  Do it now because the recipe takes almost no time but depending on your oven it may take longer to preheat.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add cold butter pieces and cut and press in until you get a crumbly meal with just a few tiny butter pieces.

Add your blueberries and toss gently to evenly distribute them without breaking.  You can substitute almost any kind of fruit at this point just keep in mind things like peaches and large strawberries or most frozen berries can add a LOT of liquid to your recipe.  If you opt to go with any of these, simply reduce the liquid content or add more flour.

In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, whole egg, egg yolk, and citron (or lemon and cardamom).  Make a shallow indent in your dry ingredients and pour in your liquid, being sure to scrape the bowl so you don't loose all your lemon zest.  Mix gently with a rubber spatula (as you would making pie crust or tart dough) until all the liquid is just absorbed.  If the dough is too sticky to knead without too much trouble, add more flour until you have a tacky but not overly sticky dough that will pull away from the sides of the bowl easily.

Turn out to a floured work surface and knead just a few times to bring it together.  Don't be tempted to over knead as this can crush the berries as well as yield tough dough...  no fun for a few reasons.  Since we talked about gluten a few posts ago...


Berry Steam!  Whenever we add whole fruit to a fairly dry recipe, we want to keep them whole for a few important reasons.  First and more obviously we usually prefer nice pockets of moist whole berries, but second and in this case more importantly we DON'T want little pockets of undercooked or overcooked dough and dried out patches of sour berry juice.  When we bake with whole fruit, the liquid inside begins to heat and form steam.  The intact skins are able to hold most of this pressure in where it should remain, giving you little heat sinks that can actually help (in a small way) provide even cooking.
If the berries burst prematurely or go into the heat crushed, the juice escapes into the surrounding drier dough and spreads thin via capillary action (like a paper towel absorbing fluid spills.)  Just as with any liquid, the more spread out the juice becomes and the more surface area it presents to its drier environment the faster it evaporates.  This can give you dried out pockets with little shriveled up berry husks inside.  Crispy!  ...wait...  (Blueberry + Heat)(steam+deliciousness) = SCIENCE!  Good times.


Press out into an 8" disk and dust with a tiny bit of flour.  At this point you can toss the disk, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge to keep for future use.  The pre-made disks will keep, depending on the fruit of course, up to to 3 weeks.  The softer the fruit and the higher the fruit liquid content, the shorter the fridge shelf life.  Cut into 8 equal pieces and place on your parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush with a little bit of buttermilk for a shiny surface then sprinkle with a tiny bit of AA large grain sugar and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack til just warm.

These are a kitchen basic and are quick, hands on and great fun to make.  Kid friendly recipe for sure!  They're also nearly infinitely variable due to the small ingredient list, allowing for almost any combination of fruit, nuts, flavorings, zests, oils...  Whatever you can think of you can probably get away with. Experiment!  Its not proper cooking if you're not enjoying what you're making as much as you enjoy eating the result!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

~Sweet Nectar and a Salty Flower~ Salty Sweet goodness in its purest form!

When I was little I loved the tiny cubes of caramel in the clear wrappers! I admit I still pick up a few if I'm in the bulk section of the grocery store. I've stopped doing so lately, trying to keep away from a lot of preservatives and colorants. Instead of trying to find organic/natural caramels (yet to see them anywhere but a fine candy shop) I though it would be a lot more fun to try and make my own! Turns out they're a hit with family and friends and more than once I've been commissioned to make them!  The power of Fleur de Sel maybe?

~Fleur De sel Soft Caramels~

1.5 C Organic Bakers Sugar
0.5 C Vanilla Sugar
2 C Heavy Cream (36% Fat Content,) split into 1.5 C and 0.5 C
1/2 C Light Agave Syrup + 1/4 C cream
1 C Light Corn Syrup
1/2 Teaspoon Fleur de Sel or Himalayan Sea Salt
5.5 Tablespoons Cultured, Unsalted Butter (Room Temp) cut into small pieces

Fleur de Sel, for decorating

SPECIAL TOOLS: 8x8 Pan, lined with lightly greased Wax Paper
                               Parchment Paper

                               Properly Calibrated Candy Thermometer

Yield - 1 large block of caramel (roughly 8"x8"x3/4")

Before I say anything about recipe ratios, pre heating, mise en place or food science ramblings, I have to mention the tools involved.  A good candy thermometer will be one of your best kitchen dwelling friends, but only if you calibrate it properlyIf not, it will hate you:  An uncalibrated thermo can skew any reading up to 2 or 3 c, and when you need precision it really spells sticky or burnt and brittle defeat.  Since water boils (at Sea Level) at 212f, we have an even temp as an example to test against.  Place the thermometer in boiling water to register 30 seconds then take your reading and note the variation (if any.)  I ended up writing the notes on the metal backing itself with a sharpie pen.  Now lets get going with the cooking!

Start by prepping your pan.  I find the easiest way to line the pan is to cut two strips as wide as the pan base and lay them in at 90° to each other, then spray with canola spray.
In a medium pot (about 2x the volume of your ingredients - taller than it is wide is better) combine sugar, 1.5 C cream, syrup and salt.  Make sure your pot is VERY clean as little scratches and or bits of caked on stuff can make the sugar try to crystallize (just like make-a-crystal kit "gems" need a tiny stone or string to grow) and give you grit and burnt flavors beyond that nice caramel brulee.

Bring your pot to a gentle boil over medium low heat.  At the same time, bring the remaining cream to a slight scald.  Add the scalded cream slowly into the boiling sugar mixture and boil a further 7 minutes without stirring.  Add your butter slowly, just a few pieces at a time, stirring gently to dissolve before adding more.

Turn up your heat to medium medium high, and clip on your trusty candy thermometer.  From now on, excess agitation can cause the caramels to crystallize and you'll likely end up with something akin to a slightly soft butter brittle.  The chance of this is lessened by the syrup we added in place of some of the sugar.  Why is this you might ask?  well...


"Sugar" is a catch-all word for many different permutations and combinations of similar molecules called Saccharides.  Common table sugar, aka Sucrose, is a disaccharide made up from two monosaccharides Glucose and Fructose (fruit biological sugars.)  These molecules in solution, when heated then allowed to cool will want to form, by nature of their structure, large crystals.  In things like caramels, certain cooked creams, and other recipes that contain a mostly sugar base, we often use a syrup or gel sugar.  These sugars are called "invert" sugar and are valued for their use in preventing crystallization in high heat baking.  Invert sugars are found in many fruits, some vegetables, and things like honey and flower nectar.  They are artificially reproduced by splitting Sucrose via hydrolysis into its smaller simple components (fructose+glucose.)

A sucrose polysaccharide made of bonded monosaccharides glucose and fructose

Sucrose molecules, as they are larger, tend to want to form larger crystals from solution, so when we break them down into monosaccharides, the molecular structures formed tend to inhibit this trait.  When we make caramels or things like jams and jellies, even marshmallows and fruit sauces, the presence of smaller mono saccharides tends to inhibit the formation of gritty sucrose crystals.  In recipes with high acid levels (fruit sauces and jams), the invert sugars are formed during cooking when the acids themselves break down the table sugars into their components.  Delicious, soft caramel, fluffy marshmallows, and sweet smooth jellies and jams all thanks to hydrolyzed molecular inversion of sucrose polysaccharides.  Sounds delicious...  and Sciency!


Boil your caramel uncovered, stirring as little as possible until it reaches Firm Ball Stage (245-250f on the thermometer.)  This range does matter depending on how you like your caramels.  If you like them softer stop at about 240-245, harder 245-250 but don't go too much cooler or hotter that this range as you can get caramels that will never set or slightly limp butter brittle.  I tend to go to about 245 for ease of handling of the final product once set. Also, remember to always have a bowl of icy water on hand to douse the bottom of your pot to stop the cooking and prevent over-hardening.  This is less important with caramels than hard candies (like lemon drops) due to the high fat and liquid contents, but it can't hurt to get into the habit.

Pour your scalding caramel liquid into your prepared pan and let cool completely at room temp on a wire rack.  If using a metal pan be aware that the extremely hot sugar will transfer its heat into the pan quickly.  I've been burned both figuratively and literally by assuming otherwise!  Once cool, you can cut them into whatever shape you like with a very sharp knife.  I cut mine into 6 strips then into 1/2" pieces and I got about 80 caramels.  Sprinkle or dip the tops with a little bit of Fleur de Sel and wrap in parchment or candy wrappers.

I find these make great gifts or candies for the table at parties and events.  You can even make them chocolate by adding a bit of fine chopped dark chocolate (about 2.75 oz for this recipe) when you add the butter.  Experiment with flavored chocolates too!